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Old 12-03-2020, 04:28 PM   #1
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Join Date: Nov 2020
Location: Michigan
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Planning for winter ski trip with dogs

Hello All,

I originally posted this in the SunSeeker forum but didn't get a lot suggestions. Hoping this is general enough to keep in this section.

I'm new here and have an intro thread in the Welcome Mat section. We just picked up the new SunSeeker and am trying to plan to take it winter camping with possible overnight stays and daily parking at ski area parking lots with no electrical hookup. I've done a bunch of searching but haven't found this specific issue.

Winter pipe freezing is one issue, but I'm not covering that here.

Trying to figure out the best way to keep the furnace running for 24-48 hours at a time without killing the batteries. We would be sleeping in the RV and also would keep two dogs inside during the day. Figure I'd like to keep the temp at 65 degrees or so. Plan on worst case 15 degree days and 0 degree nights. Mostly worried about leaving the dogs inside and having an issue with carbon monoxide or the furnace going out and freezing them if we were away for 4-6 hours.

I'm unsure how to figure out amp-hours and such to understand how long the furnace fan could run off of the dual batteries in the coach with no charging assist.

Here are some options that I'm considering and looking for opinions:
1. Plan on running the on-board generator every "X" hours to charge the batteries. I'm not sure what "X" needs to equal and how long I would need to charge for to keep it adequate to make it to the next charging time. I think I've read that the on-board converter is not the most efficient for charging, but I still haven't found what is the most efficient.

2. Run the on-board generator full time? Something just makes me nervous about that. Not sure why though. I'm not familiar with them, so just don't have any built-in confidence about reliability.

3. Get a portable Honda generator to run outside the RV. Will a 20 amp output be sufficient to run the furnace fan?

4. I do have some small solar panels used for my boat lift deep cycle battery. I'm not sure how much power they put out, but could bring them along for during the day. I'm guessing they can't keep up with the furnace fan draw, but it might be better than nothing.

Any other suggestions or concerns I'm not thinking of here?

Thanks,
Ken
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Old 12-03-2020, 05:37 PM   #2
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The 2860 is not really an ideal floor plan for what you are attempting. Canadream is a tourism company in Canada that has successfully rented Sunseekers, specifically for Skiing for over a decade. Easiest answer would be to buy one of their 2650CDW Units. That is a 2650 Sunseeker with a customer "Winter Build Spec". If that is not an option, I can give you some ideas what they do special.

Dual pane windows throughout (no rear window), no water filter, added valves to low point drains in conditioned space, 35k BTU quiet furnace, extra LP, aux engine coolant heater to use the engine heat in transit, insulated cab curtain so you are not heating the cab space, extra insulation wherever possible and at all openings, (4) Batteries, low voltage cutout on the batteries, solar, extra heat duct to the bathroom area and heat ducts run along with the water lines, heat ducts run to the exterior utility bay, extra insulation around the utility bay and more.

To answer the specific questions...
1. This depends on how many batteries and how far they are depleted. Lithium would be an ideal set up as they charge faster and store more in the same space. Best bet is ReLion LT version (low temp) with a built in heater. You can replace the converter with one designed for lithium. Progressive Dynamics has drop in repalcements.

2. Not sure why you would need to...everything runs on 12V. TV's are 12V, you can cook with propane. If it is an Onan, you should be able to add an Auto-Gen-Start that is voltage triggered. So if it gets low, it just turns on as needed.

3. seems a waste.

4. I would suggest 200 watts min. 400 is better to account for low light levels in winter. MPPT controller works good in cold weather converted higher volts into more amps.

The more expensive but "already thought this all out" solution is to buy an Isata 5 Xplorer package designed for winter travel from the ground up.
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Old 12-05-2020, 06:32 AM   #3
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Thank you very much for the detailed response. I've read many of your posts when searching on other topics and appreciate the info you put out for people.

Since we've already bought the RV, there is no going back at this time. I'm going through your list to prioritize based on ease and cost.

For power, it seems as though the low voltage, auto start for the on-board Onan generator would be the most worthwhile addition. Any recommendations for a specific product that doesn't break the bank?

I've already purchased an "Extend a stay" propane valve and will install today. Also have been looking to see where I can add extra insulation and open up the pipes to heated space. Removing the water filter and raising the low point valves should be easy as well. I will keep working through the list.

Thanks again.
Ken
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Old 12-05-2020, 11:20 AM   #4
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Regarding the dogs, first thing i would consider how cold it will be? I would not do this in day time single digits or below. I'm not sure I would do it even in the day time teens. I would be concerned that if the furnace stopped, it would get too cold too fast.

Second thing I'd consider is the risk of leaving a propane furnace running without being there. I personally wouldn't risk it.

I don't like leaving our pup at the kennel. We love having her with us at the camper. If I were in this situation, I'd seriously consider the kennel or maybe try to find someone that is willing to stay in the camper while others were skiing. No judgment...just what I'd consider if I were in a similar situation.

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Old 12-05-2020, 01:51 PM   #5
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A couple of thoughts...

A couple of thoughts...

Carbon monoxide from operating the furnace is not a concern. There are two separate air systems, with a heat exchanger. Combustion air is drawn in from one of those two vents on the side of the coach, used to burn propane in the firebox, and exhausted out the other two vents (The two vents, about 3" in diameter, are on a chrome-plated vent outside the furnace.) Air from inside the trailer is drawn into the plenum surrounding the firebox, heated by contact, and blown through the vents.

There are alarms which will send a message to your phone if the temperature drops below a threshold. If you set the thermostat at 65 or 70 and the alarm at 50 degrees, you would have plenty of time to get back to the motor home before the critters were threatened. If you get nervous about the status, you can poll the alarm while you are on the ski lift. Enter "cellular temperature sensor" at Amazon.

The couple of batteries on the motor home will surely run the furnace for 4-6 hours while you are skiing, giving you plenty of time to get back to your hookup for an overnight charge.

Does your motor home have an "Automatic Generator Start" (AGS)? If that were enabled, the generator would start when needed.

Not sure I would rely on solar panels. There are plenty of overcast days that are great for skiing but not so good for solar charging.

As Brian says, these units are kind of a heat sieve, so you might try it in the driveway at 0 or 15 and see if the furnace can keep up at all at those temperatures before you go on a trip.
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Old 12-05-2020, 05:45 PM   #6
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While it's too late for the OP, anyone considering buying a trailer for winter activities should look for a trailer that's 0/100 rated. A "Four Seasons" sticker on a trailer shouldn't be viewed as an indicator that it can handle colder weather conditions. An honest dealer in the northern states can tell you which trailers are rated 0/100. You can also google "0 to 100 degree rated travel trailer" to find manufacturers who rate their trailers for those two temperature extremes. It's much easier to buy one already built to those specs rather than modifying a fair weather trailer.
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Old 12-06-2020, 07:13 AM   #7
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Thanks all...

Thanks for the tips. We are leaving today and headed south to do our first "shake down" with the RV. I'd like to practice with winterization and such in the warm weather. When we get back, I may set up in the driveway for a night or two to see how I can handle the winter. (28 degrees in the driveway right now.)
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Old 01-02-2021, 08:12 AM   #8
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Just following up on this for future "searchers". We did spend 3 nights this past week sleeping at a campground with electrical hookups. The furnace had to work on the nights where the temp was approaching 15 degrees outside. The 3rd night was at about 30 degrees and a 1500 watt space heater did the trick for the most part.

While parked in the ski area parking lot, we left the furnace to run at battery power with the temp set at 65 degrees. I ran the generator for 20 minutes when we came back for lunch.

Yesterday I installed a Victron 712 battery monitor and will be doing some experimenting with battery draw on the furnace this week before the RV goes back into storage. Still want to confirm if I can boondock in the cold overnight without running the generator.
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